Who Gets Left Out Of The Blueline Puzzle?

Washington Capitals v Montreal Canadiens
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The Rookies Are On Their Way

Lane Hutson
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From an organizational standpoint, Habs management must be gleaming about the group of young defenders they have assembled. So much so that they are going to have some tough decisions to make. Some decisions will need to be made this season, some in June at the draft and for sure some over the Canadiens' next 164 regular season games.

No player in the Canadiens prospect pool does what Lane Hutson does and for that reason, he is the first player to discuss. If Boston University's season was done, Hutson would have traded in the red and white for the Habs' famous bleu, blanc et rouge sweaters. A favourite for the Hobey Baker Award, Hutson is one of the best NHL prospects yet to play an NHL game.

In Hutson, the Canadiens have their hopeful number-one power-play quarterback for the next 10-15 years. He isn't going to show up and take it from Matheson, not right away, anyway, but the writing is on the wall. Upon his arrival, Hutson will ink his entry-level deal and I don't think he will touch Laval Rocket ice.

Unless the Rocket suffer an injury to their blueline, Hutson is likely going to get a taste of the NHL. Having a sample of the pace and where he needs to improve will be huge for Hutson ahead of the biggest offseason of his career. I'm not sure who he will play with next season, but I get the sense it won't be a decision that is taken lightly.

Logan Mailloux could argue for a spot in the Canadiens' lineup right now; with the lack of right-shot defenders and a need for offence, Mailloux fits the bill. Right now he and the Rocket are trying to nab themselves a spot in the playoffs. So he won't be heading to Montreal just yet, but he can leave a great impression to finish off what has been a great rookie season in the pros.

Mailloux has had an eventful season, highlighted by an All-Star game invite and tying a Rocket rookie defenseman record. Currently, neck and neck with former Rocket defender Eric Gelinas, Mailloux's 13 goals are tied for the most in Rocket history for a rookie defenseman. Mailloux is a kind parting gift from Marc Bergevin; that wouldn't be, if not for the former general manager's steel nerves to draft him.

David Reinbacher is the next guy in the pecking order; who could have close to a full American Hockey League season under his belt, but he opted to finish what he started in Switzerland. His current club EHC Kloten was a disaster all year, and Reinbacher is likely to join the Habs fold soon enough because of it. Laval feels like the logical option for Reinbacher, who will need some time to adapt to the smaller North American ice.

Reinbacher's arrival to North America is one of the most anticipated through the Habs brass. Ideally, he will spend the full year in Laval next season, and any minutes he plays this season will likely be with the Rocket as well. His effective defence first, great mobility combination renders him a bona fide top-four NHL defence potential player.

What About The Under 25 Guys In Montreal?

Kaiden Guhle
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The under-25 group is interesting because they are the players who have already established themselves with the Canadiens. A group comprised of four players; will likely decrease to three by the 2025 Trade Deadline. If a trade emerges at the draft involving one of the four players, Hughes might just swing on it for the right price.

I will start with Jordan Harris, and that's because I think he is the most likely to be moved, simply because he is an upgrade on Kovacevic. That isn't meant as an insult, Harris will make another team very happy, but the Canadiens depth might force him out of the organization. Dangling a high-potential forward in front of Hughes could be too tantalizing to ignore.

Harris is smart and efficient; he picks his spots perfectly and he is rarely caught out of position. Defensively he is very sound and there is some skill there, but he is more puck mover than offensive presence. His size would also make the Canadiens group smaller, but not necessarily more skilled.

Kaiden Guhle leads the group, and at this point is the highest on the list of potential top-pairing options; who are currently in the lineup. Guhle is a swift skater, who plays the body well and closes space in just a couple of strides. His blend of size and high hockey IQ have kept him on the top defence pair, and he has proven to be a great fit.

He is more likely a number two defenceman, who can shut it down and dish the puck up the ice or join the rush and play set-up man. Guhle has a heavy shot, but he is more of a pass-first player. Pairing him with an offensive-leaning defenseman makes a lot of sense. The Edmonton, Alta., native plays big minutes against the opposition's best and will be an asset for the Habs when they get back into the playoff picture.

Arber Xhekaj is the next defender to discuss, and his game is still undergoing significant growth. A physical specimen who separates guys from their skates with his body checks, he is a no-nonsense bruising rearguard. The heavyweight has some serious skill and a stint with Laval has been huge for confidence.

Xhekaj's cannon of a shot brings a different layer to the group, much like Shea Weber before him, No. 72 gets tremendous power off his slapshot release. For a big man, he is extremely mobile and he doesn't just sit at the blueline; but skates around to break down the opposition. Xhekaj brings something to the Canadiens that nobody else can, and for that reason, I believe he will stick around for a long time.

Jayden Struble is the last of the four, and his stapling to the Canadiens lineup by head coach Martin St. Louis tells you all you need to know. Struble played just 12 games with Laval, and since being called up, he hasn't looked back. His NCAA career was huge for his development, and his strength in the corners and around the net is proof of that.

Struble throws his body around when necessary, but he uses his strength to battle in the corners and box out the netfront. His mobility is very noticeable, and he has second gear explosiveness in his stride, which pairs well with his strong positioning. As a shooter Struble has a heavy one-timer, but opts to use quick snapshots; he has a great shot and will benefit more from using it.